Age Of Empires was a popular game in our college, way back in 2008. I was a gaming novice, I still am. My favourite aspect of the game was garrisoning feature that allowed my poor peasants & unskilled militia to save their asses whenever my empire was under siege. Ring the ‘threat’ bell and my entire village would assemble inside the Town Hall. Even that couldn’t help me survive, let alone winning the game ever.
But this is not about my gaming abilities, right?
The point is Tower Temples of Sainj and Banjar Valley. We explored these valleys for two days and came across five more Tower Temples other than the famous Chaini Kothi. And my gut feeling tells me that there are more hidden jewels in these two valleys.
These Tower Temples of Kullu Valley were built primarily as garrisoning stations. As a defensive structure that not only provided a vantage point for safeguarding the village but also served as a storage structure. So basically, these tower temples were not just a place of religious gathering but acted as a multi-purpose building.
Gondhala castle of Lahaul, Sapani and Kamaru Castles in Kinnaur, Devta Baneshwar’s Castle in Shimla are some of the prominent names that strike my mind when I think of Tower Temples of Himachal Pradesh.
The most popular Tower Temple of Kullu Valley is the Chaini Kothi (named after the village Chahni). A visit to Chaini Kothi is an essential part of every traveller’s journey to this region. However, people have not explored the Sainj Valley and that’s why only one name features in the list of Tower Temples of Kullu Valley.
I visited the Himachal Darshan Gallery established by the famous photographer Shri Birbal Sharma, near Mandi, along the Mandi – Manali National Highway. There I found this breathtaking image of a Tower Temple of Kullu, and surprisingly it was not Chahni Kothi. The image displayed on the wall had Ashapuri Temple, Sainj Valley as its caption.
And that got me curious. Me and my friend Karun started our second journey to the Sainj Valley to find out more about the Tower Temples of Kullu. To our surprise, we actually found a goldmine. Here is a sample from that goldmine.
Alongside the Ashapuri Temple, another tower is located few meters away towards the hillside, which is a seat of Budha Narayan. As we climbed our way up to the Ashapuri Tower, we got to know about two more tower temples in the Sainj Valley. Because we visited these temples in the Bhadon Ka Mahina (Hindu calendar, Rainy Season), entry inside these temples was forbidden. Initially, we thought it to be a classic case of Kullu casteism but it turned out to be a ritual thing.
These two towers are approximately of the same height ranging between 25-30 meters. The lower portion is entirely made of stone, which probably serves as a strong plinth foundation to sustain the load of the tall structure above. Rest of the structure is typical kath-kunni architecture with nicely polished deodar beams inserted at every corner. The roof of these tower temples is composite in nature, the topmost portion given a gable shape.
Because we were not allowed inside the temple and there was no one to talk to, we had to leave that place with a heavy heart. But we were glad too because we had stumbled upon two more towers in the vicinity. And surprisingly, we spotted another tower as we were heading towards our new destination.
All of a sudden, it was raining towers all around!
Ashapuri and Budha Narayan temples are located in Raila while the unknown temple was located in the Tamhol Village.
I was told that there exists only One Brahma temple in India. We found six of them in Himachal only. Similarly, it is said that there is only one Manu temple in India. We found out two more, in the Kullu Valley itself.
The two tower temples that came our way unexpectedly belong to Manu Devta, the creator of Manu Samriti. It is believed that Manu Samriti is the scripture that founded the caste-system based on birth. It is also alleged that Manu Samriti legally recognized harsh punishments for Dalits.
However, if we delve deep into this matter, it all appears to be a campaign of calumny. Arun Shourie, an expert of the Indian History and Culture affairs, has written a lot about these subjects. I recommend you watch Shourie’s interview with Madhu Trehan and read this interesting piece at Agniveer.
Coming back to the architectural style of Manu’s Temple in Shnashar, it is a marvelous wooden wonder.
This Manu Temple built in pagoda style with a multi-tier design is a unique spectacle. A glimpse of the magical grasslands of Shangchul Mahadev is visible from the ridge atop the Manu Temple. Unfortunately, the artifacts, stone carved idols have been placed outside the temple in the open whereas old wooden members have been replaced with new and polished wood that looks ugly without any doubt.
Retrofitting of this temple has been done in such a way that even Rahul Gandhi could have done a better job.
A short hike from this village leads you to the ancient seat of Manu Devta, which is infact a twin tower similar to the one we saw at Ashapuri. Made of locally available stone, wood, and expertise. A marvelous structure built by the so called primitive tribes hundreds of years ago.
The twin towers are located in the Talyara Village and this village offers a spectacular panoramic view of not only the Sainj Valley down in the depth but also the web of mountains of the Great Himalayan National Park.
A muddy road as bad as the Marhi-Rohtang stretch leads you to this village. The five storeyed Manu Temple is visible from a far-off distance and one needs to circle around it many times before one finally reaches at the temple. En route you will see many hydro-projects under construction; a small tunnel here, a blasted faced of the mountain there, basically it all looks fucked up all around until you arrive atop the mountain ridge.
And as I type this, the state government has approved a couple of more hydro – projects in the sensitive Lahaul and Spiti region.
How To Reach?
All these towers are well connected to the road, except for the Manu Temple that require you to walk for almost half an hour on a well marked trail.
Manu Temple: Sainj – Neuli – Siund – Shanshar – 20km (10km muddy road)
Ashapuri Towers: Sainj – Siund – Raila – 15km
Meanwhile, see what’s happening in the Sainj Valley!